January 25, 2018
I was exchanging messages recently with a friend of mine who is both wise and insightful. We were talking about some of the uncertainties I’m looking at, and the associated ups and downs, and he wrote, “You staying healthy?”
An astute and important question.
If you know me, you probably know that I’ve been something of a gym rat for most of my life. My progress in all of that has been curtailed somewhat by the fact that I’m also a kitchen rat (or at least a dining room rat), but this isn’t really about the physical effects of working out.
No, this is about the mental effects of working out, and they’re powerful.
A lot of times, depression comes from feeling like you have no control over things (even though you probably have more control than you realize, which is perhaps another article). When you feel lost or uncertain or insecure, taking action can be a cure. Working out is a great way to do that, and in the process re-establish some control over your life.
There have been times in my life when the gym has been a saviour. When I was in school and dealing with mid-terms and essays and all that fun stuff, the gym was a refuge. When work has sucked or there’s been other frustrating stuff going on, training has been an escape. I haven’t toured a lot, but being on the road and finding a gym, even for an hour, is like finding solid ground. On the Sarah tour, we went out of our way to find gym time. One night in Berlin I had the hotel gym entirely to myself and it was heaven. We were all sick and exhausted and we’d been riding the whirlwind for a little while. That 45 minutes alone, in control, was a perfect way to clear my head and focus again.
The other side of it is discipline, which can be an incredible confidence builder. Discipline means valuing yourself. It’s identifying something that’s important to you and then honouring it, even while other things – moods, relationships, work, whatever – pull you in all directions. Again, it puts you in charge when it feels like you have no control over anything. One of my philosophical heroes, Geoff Thompson, says that when things go sideways around him, he turns inward, rather than indulging the drama. He ups his own game. He works on himself. It’s the one thing over which he has genuine power.
You have power over yourself too. Exercising it – literally and figuratively – can make a world of difference.
So if you feel down, take physical action. If your heart is broken, take back your power in the gym. If you feel like you’re not in control of your life, commit to a program or get to a yoga studio or just go outside for a walk and take control. Do something every day. Make it the space where you’re in charge, working on you, and all of the outside stuff can’t get in. It’ll do you wonders.
And hey, you’ll probably get leaner and healthier and stronger as a nice fringe benefit.
Feel the burn!
(Editors note: The signature on that hilarious illusion of my arm belongs to the great Carly Thomas.)